There is a close connection between religion and music. All major religions have a special place for music. The elevating impact of music opens up the entrance to spirituality. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism wrote his 'Granthsahib', the holy book which contains verses which are set to different ragas. Ragas like 'Asa', 'Mand' etc have been mentioned in the holy book itself. In the Sikh places of worship, the musicians who sing these verses are called 'Ragis'. One was reflecting upon this aspect of our culture as one sat listening to Dr. Nivedita Singh, the well known singer from Patiala is also an educator. She has learned from Ganesh Mishra from the Gwalior tradition. She has featured in the Shivaji Park Nagarik Sangh an evening concert. She sang the raga 'Bihag' with a sense of involvement. The raga has two shades of the note Madhyam. Nivedita could strike the right balance between them. The elaboration of the asthayi (first part) and the antara (the second part) was systematic. She also sang a devotional 'sabad' which highlighted the spiritual roots of music. Gurushant Singh on the tabla and Vinod Padge on the harmonium lent superb support to her.
The second part of the programme consisted of a performance by the singer Sonal Shivkumar. She has learned from well known singer Prabhakar Karekar. For the last few years, she has been under the tutelage of Manik Bhide who is the senior most pupil of Kishori Amonkar. Sonal sings in a sweet and extremely supple voice. She sang the raga 'Bageshri'. Komal gandhar forms the backbone of 'Bageshri'. Sonal now sings in a style which has been standardised by Kishori Amonkar. Her elaboration of the raga, taan patterns, her entire presentation was reminiscent of the current star Ashwini Bhide Deshpande who happens to be her senior co-student. She also sang the raga 'Durga'. The fluidity with which she sang elicited appreciation.
Rich tributes were paid to the everlasting memory of sitar maestro Halim Jaffer Khan at a prayer meet organised at the Sharada Sangeet Vidyalaya. His contribution to the art of sitar playing and to film music was recalled by the various speakers who paid glowing tributes to him. He was the first musician to play a jugal bandi with shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan for the film 'Goonj Uthi Shehnai'. His contribution to film music is remarkable. His services were drafted by composers of the eminence of Naushad, Madan Mohan, C Ramchandra, Vasant Desai and Shankar Jaikishen. The entire background score for the mega hits like 'Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje' and 'Mughal-E-Azam' was played by him. Songs like 'Madhu Banme Radhika', 'Jare Badara Bairi' and 'Tasveer Banata Hun' became immortal thanks to his artistry on the sitar. He was decorated with Padmabhushan, Sangeet Natak Academy Award and a number of such awards. His students like Rajendra Verman, Harshankar Bhttacharya, Ravindra Chary, Zunain Khan, Zubair Shaikh have already established themselves in the field. 'Halim Academy of Sitar' founded by him continues to guide young and aspiring sitar players. All of them were present on the occasion.